Air ducts (and duct work in general) are places where you can find the craziest, weirdest and strangest things imaginable. It turns out that these are magnets for dirty, gross and awkward objects of all sizes. A lot of people wouldn’t even believe that some of the weirdest things – even living beings – could end up in their duct work.
If you haven’t cleaned the ducts in your home recently, prepare to be amazed (and quite possibly disgusted) at what might be lurking within your duct work.
What’s Hiding Within?
People often forget about duct work, and really no one even knows what could be up there. We’ll go through some weird stuff just to point out how the strangest things can end up in the ducts, with no explanation of how they got there in the first place.
Air ducts are among the most notorious places where you can find almost anything. HVAC techs have found dead insects and small animals, as well as toys and even clothes without ever being able to explain how they got there.
The Craziest Things Modern PURAIR® Has Found in Ducts
A little later on we’ll talk about the industry as a whole, and some of the stories that we’ve heard or read. But let’s go firsthand first, and cover the five craziest things we have pulled out of ducts here at Modern PURAIR®.
According to Bruce in Calgary, one of his techs wanted to share a great story about his duct cleaning experience. Apparently, he found a diamond engagement ring that a couple managed to lose in the duct work.
The ring was thought to be lost and remained in the duct work for several years. We don’t know what happened to the couple, but we certainly wish them all the best!
A Full-Size Flag and a Helicopter
Amanda in Grande Prairie, Alberta also has a crazy duct-cleaning story. She reported that they found a full-size flag along with a helicopter!
Now before you call “nonsense” on this story, we should note that it was a TOY helicopter. Still, how did it get up into the duct work!!
Aside from that, they also found pop cans, a map, and some dead mice (see picture above – but maybe not if you’re about to eat or have just eaten).
No one knows how the flag and the helicopter got in the ducts, not even the homeowner. Perhaps someone may have made a mistake while building the place? Maybe a child just lost his or her toy helicopter while playing? We will never know, but then again the mystery is fun isn’t it?
4-foot Section of Baseboard
In the duct-cleaning business, you can expect to find a lot of interesting and crazy stuff. Our tech Tanner in Red Deer, Alberta shared one of his stories with us. According to Tanner, the craziest things he has seen are a 4-foot piece of baseboard, a tennis ball, children’s and dog toys, and underwear.
We might imagine a strange scenario regarding said underwear, but that’s another story entirely.
One of our techs really did a number on us when he shared his story about finding baby birds in a dryer vent duct. We don’t know where their mom is but we’re happy that these little birdies managed to survive and got some well-deserved TLC.
This is also a common case, as lots of small animals (mice, squirrels, raccoons, et al), reptiles and birds find ducts to be a safe place to give birth to their babies.
While it might seem like a beautiful thing to some, it can also be dangerous. That’s why it’s always recommended that you hire professionals to clean your ducts, to make sure you’re safe and well protected.
A bonus is that, if those professionals find living beings like our tech here did, they will know what to do with them to ensure their survival. Everybody wins!
Now, this is quite possibly our favorite duct-cleaning story ever. We would expect pretty much anything but a love letter. Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is a full-fledged high school love drama, written across three pages, front and back.
Apparently, someone had a very big crush back in 1997 but it didn’t end so well. We share our sympathies with the lovers, as things can go sour in relationships, it’s just the way things are.
What You Don’t See Might Be Harmful
Now that we’ve shared our favourite stories about what Modern PURAIR® techs have found in HVAC ducts, how about some stories from around the industry?
We’ll get to those in just a minute. But first, some words of caution.
Some items can be harmless if caught in ducts. They mostly stay there, not bothering anybody. We’re talking about things like shoes, clothing, toys… solid-state items, if you will. Now of course, if these items are big enough or if there are enough of them, it can cause a problem with air flow.
That brings us to Problem #1, which is lack of air flowing properly, which can lead to an imbalance of air and temperature throughout the home. If one room is cut off (or maybe two or more) from air flow, it will get hotter or colder depending on the season. That can end up costing you money over time, quite a lot in fact.
So it’s best to make sure your ducts are clear and the air is flowing properly.
Problem #2 is an even bigger one: What You Might Be Breathing. If you’ve got dead animals in the ducts, for example, they could be spreading bacteria and disease. Rotting food could present similar issues. Also the odour from these would be quite unpleasant!
Okay, with that said, let’s continue with some of those crazy, wacky HVAC stories!
Stories We’ve Heard & Read About Crazy Duct Finds in the HVAC Industry
Now bear in mind, we weren’t there for these events. So we can’t vouch for their veracity. But it’s understandable, given some of the things we’ve seen, so these sound right and we’re willing to wager most of not all would check out.
Food Wrappers & Coffee Cups
Wrappers and cups are also a pretty common find in the duct work, left behind (or thrown carelessly) by construction workers and overlooked by inspectors. That’s insulting, isn’t it? You’ve paid hard-earned money to buy this home and THAT’S how they treat you??
If you move into your new home and you find your air flow reduced or blocked, at least now you know some of the possible causes.
Rodents & Animals
Mice and rats love duct work for some reason. So do snakes. What looks like an uninhabitable environment to us is like a paradise to them.
Still, if you’re experiencing a strange smell coming from the top of the AC coil, it might be the collection of dead mice which can be some pretty nasty business.
Also, if you’re hearing strange noises from your air ducts, it isn’t aliens or ghosts, it’s just that your air ducts are full of rodents. It’s a natural alarm saying that it’s time to clean your ducts.
Unwanted Presents from Humans
Perhaps because a construction worker was stuck in the ducts and he had to go, so instead of climbing down and going to a bathroom, he decided to do it right there. Or perhaps we’re being too generous, and this was the work of a lazy or uncivilized person. Either way… gross!
It’s even worse if you take into consideration that it’s usually more than one worker up there so before you know it, there could be dried up feces all over the place. Then, there are bottles full of urine for the same reason: those same workers had to do it somewhere.
Imagine breathing the air that comes through these ducts!!
What to Expect – and the Unexpected
The best way to find out what might be lurking in your duct is to speak with your duct cleaning company, as they (we!) have the best stories ever.
Some of the usual stuff you can expect to find is dust, lots and lots of it, pencils, dead mice, coins, cereal, and hair. Then again, there could be a cash box, a running shoe, a raincoat, or a dead fox.
Aside from that, people have also found found beer bottles, coffee cups and pop cans along with old baseball and hockey cards.
So, as you can see, a lot of things tend to get stuck in the ducts without any reasonable explanation of how they got there. Perhaps some of these items were left by construction workers during your home renovation project because things like lunch bags mean just that.
Plastic toys, marbles, and an aquarium
Now, plastic toys are quite common in ducts, as well as marbles; but on stranger tides, it’s possible to find a whole aquarium filled with stuff. It was probably left by the people who lived there and didn’t know where to put it so, of course, the duct work was a convenient solution.
A stash of books and old VCR tapes
Once, a duct cleaning team managed to find a whole set of books in the air vent. They received a distress call by the homeowner who was reporting a problem with his ventilation system. When they took off the grill, they found a huge box full of VCR tapes and books.
Sounds about right, too — one of our associates once experienced a foul odour when turning on a gas fireplace in a rental home for the first time. When he removed the grill, he found a children’s book and and a DVD on the inner top of the fireplace — the DVD had melted and harmful gases were being released!
Moral of the story(ies): If you’re having problems with air flow or foul odours, it could be because a lot of strange, crazy and weird stuff is stuck in ducts or other areas of the HVAC system..
Cleaning ducts can be a pretty nasty business but it can also be fun, as you never know what you’re going to find.
Music & Weed
On a more positive side, if you’re into music, finding a whole stack of CDs might just be the thing that will make your day.
Other substances, not so much. Sometimes, teenagers love to experiment with drugs and they tend to buy weed. When their parents come home, they don’t know where to hide their stash and it can eventually end up in the duct.
It’s also common for people to forget about their stash until they turn the heat on. From the moment the aroma starts filling the air, they magically remember that they have something hidden in the duct work.
Tips from Modern PURAIR® on What Might Be Hiding in Your Ducts
Now that we’ve shared some of the craziest, weirdest and most common things found in the ducts, it’s time to shed some light on what could be lurking in yours.
Most of the time, there can just be garbage down there, but you can never know. Based on our experience, we would like to point out some of the most common things that might be hiding in your ducts.
Some homeowners have problems with allergies when they switch on their AC or heating. If this is also the case with you, here is what may be the cause.
Pollen tends to collect in air ducts as weather changes and wind stir up all sorts of allergens like pollen and makes them circulate throughout your home. Since pollen is one of the most known allergy agitators, you will do yourself a favor if you regularly inspect and clean your air ducts.
It doesn’t take a flower garden to make you allergic; the indoor air you breathe could be quite enough. Hire the right duct cleaning company to maintain your air ducts and you can easily mitigate these issues.
Most people get surprised with the knowledge that dust is nothing more than dead human skin cells. Since this is so, dust can be an extremely nutritious food source for all sorts of tiny critters. It’s not ideal in the air for humans, however.
Some of those tiny critters are dust mites which could pose a serious threat to your health. Despite dust being a real nuisance, maintaining clean air ducts is what keeps you healthy in the end.
Dust mites are the most common tiny bugs in almost every household. They just love semi-humid and warm environments. While they are really, really tiny, they are also potentially dangerous as these bugs are among the most common triggers of asthma.
If you suffer from these types of health conditions, switching on your heating or AC system could trigger an asthma attack. You can do something about it though. Regularly wash your pillows and bedspreads and make sure you keep your carpeting at a minimum.
Hair and skin cells from your dog or cat usually end up in your air ducts. The same goes for rodents such as mice and rats. Heating ducts tend to get clogged by pet and animal dander, which can be, of course, dangerous to your health.
If you’re experiencing pest problems, consult with a pest-control expert before the situation escalates. You can also prevent hair and pet dander buildup by regularly sweeping and vacuuming.
Humidity is a breeding ground for the development and growth of mold. While mold by itself doesn’t pose a serious threat, mold spores do. It can turn into a real issue if left untreated.
If you suspect that certain parts of your house are prone to dampness and mold, you can try to fix this by deploying a dehumidifier. It can help to keep these nasty little microscopic air pollutants and allergens under control and at bay.
Developing a few very simple and useful habits might also help. Vacuum, dust, and sweep on a regular basis, as this is the best way to minimize the dust that gets sucked into your heating ducts and furnace.
Still, one of the best ways to make sure your air is always clean and free of any allergens and pollutants is by regularly changing your furnace air filter.
How to Keep Your Ducts Clean
Regular duct cleaning prevents various health conditions and problems, as the ducts can become a potential source of all kinds of allergens and air pollutants.
Dirty air ducts can also be a source of extremely unpleasant odor due to all sorts of dust that builds up there. Then there are infestations and mold growth, which means that there are also dust mites in there.
If your air ducts get clogged with debris and dust, it’s only a matter of time before you start breathing these pollutants and allergens in. The best way to prevent this is by keeping your air ducts clean. With that in mind, here are some useful tips on how you can be proactive:
- Make sure your filters are always fresh and regularly inspect them to prevent clogging
- Always use recommended filters for the highest efficiency
- Make sure air goes directly through your filters by closing all gaps around the filter holder
- Keep your HVAC system sealed if you’re doing any type of home construction or improvement to prevent dust from getting into your system
- Vacuum, sweep, and dust regularly
- If you’re using a humidifier, make sure you maintain and operate it according to the manufacturer instructions
- Make sure your ducts are always dry
- Repair any water damage and leaks correctly and in a timely manner
If you’ve noticed any issues with the air flow in your home, it could very well be due to items clogging your ducts. That means it’s time for a duct cleaning. You can save a lot of money by regularly inspecting and cleaning your ducts, as that’s the best way to catch all problems early on and before they escalate.
This is also the best way to prevent rodent and bug infestations in ducts, as well as mold growth, which can cause a lot of allergies and other similar health problems and conditions.